Friday, June 25, 2010

I'm On Vacation!

Time for vacation...yee haw! My family is going to Little Compton, Rhode Island for a week. It's a charming little town, and should offer the peace and quiet my soul desires. I had an epic trip to the bookstore yesterday. In my goody bag...Nice Girls Don't Date Dead Men by Molly Harper, Love In The Time Of Dragons by Katie MacAlister, The Proof is in the Pudding by Melinda Wells, and Levianthan by Scott Westerfeld. On Kindle, I have Emily Bryan's newest book, Stroke of Genius, and You Just Might Get It by Julia Barrett. The Brazen Bride by Stephanie Laurens is also coming out next week, so maybe I'll get that one, too. Unfortunately, no Internet at the rental house (help me!!!!!!!!), and the nearest Starbucks is half an hour away. So, farewell my romance-reading friends. I will be back on-line after July 4th. I hope all of you have a great week, and a super fun Independence Day celebration. We will be back just in time for fireworks and a parade. (My daughter LOVES this parade because they throw candy. She showed up last year with a bucket!).


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bantering About Banter: Review of Ten Things I Love About You

Okay, I am a long-term Julia Quinn fan (Bridgerton series...yay!). I realize that her books have moved from pretty emotional and having some substance to more-or-less fluff. Now don't get me wrong. I love fluff. I love endless, silly banter. I don't even mind cutesy stuff like top ten lists sprinkled throughout the book. But as I was reading this book, several things occurred to me. I was about 1/3? of the way through and nothing had happened yet. Nothing. There is a lot of deep POV (internal dialogue, etc. etc) and no freaking action. And I do mean none. No matter how good a writer Julia Quinn is, she's gotta pick up the pacing, unless it's a cute little novella or something. Also, the top ten lists were so mindless they actually turned from being cutesy to making the characters look like imbeciles.

My favorite part of Quinn's writing is the banter. Oh, how Penelope loves banter! I love the banter in Amanda Quick's books. I love the banter in Gail Carriger's books. I adore the banter in the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters. I love banter that is sharp, funny, and witty. (Annette Blair does it in a very fresh, modern and snappy way in her books, too). However, I noticed something about the banter in this latest Quinn novel. Even though the characters are set in a historical romance, the banter comes across as very, very modern. Part of the great thing about the dry banter between Quick's characters is that it's set in a historical time-frame, and the language and dialogue is formal, stilted and the characters have to insult each other in a round-about way. Quinn's banter has lost that fun, historical edge. It sounds like 2 characters from a contemporary novel sparring with each other. Which is fun, it's just not a historical. (Deep thoughts by Jack Handy coming at you, LIVE, from Penelope's Romance Reviews...hee hee!).

A couple other problems...since Quinn appears to be shying away from serious topics, it's a little strange that she introduces the fact that the hero is suffering from PTSD and never really resolves it. I also thought the scene at the end of the book where the "villain" sneaks into the heroine's room was unnecessary and felt like an add-on scene.

This is not Quinn's greatest creation, but it was entertaining enough for a read by the pool. My favorite part was the secret author storyline and the cute "Grey Most Likely To Outrun A Turkey" joke. I must admit I am missing the sparkle of old Julia Quinn books. She created some incredible characters and beautiful love stories with the original Bridgerton books. I would love to see her get back to that level of writing--creating strong, conflicted characters with some meat on their bones. Instead of marshmallow fluff.

Grade: B

Monday, June 21, 2010

Review for With Grace by Samantha Wayland

With Grace by Samantha Wayland

I'm gonna start this review with a little background story...bear with me! Once upon a time, a new girl joined my critique group, The Quirky Ladies. My first impression of Sam...she had a big laugh, a big personality, she told rip-roaring funny stories, and she cussed a lot. (Which was a plus for me because I cuss like a sailor). I wondered what kind of stories she would write. I was somewhat sheltered. In spite of the fact that half of my group writes erotica, I never heard of triads, butt plugs, or face-to-face male sex. I'm not a big erotica lover...I hate stories that only talk about f**king, and leave out the emotional connection. I need love with my sex, dammit!

Anyhoo, Sam gives us three chapters of her story and I am blown right out of the water. I could not believe she wasn't published. Her characters literally come alive, her prose is smooth as butt-ah, and the story sucked me in and had me totally engaged right away. I was pissed I only had 3 chapters, and insisted she give me the whole damned story pronto! Which she did, and I sucked it down faster than a mango margarita.

With Grace is just like Sam. It has a great sense of humor, a big personality, and is emotional and entertaining. This book has an excellent storyline, and a loving, lusty and believable triad between three wonderful and distinct characters. The concept of a triad--three people who are truly "in love" with each other--is actually quite sweet, even in an erotica story. I loved how Philip learns to not only accept another person in his love affair with Grace, but also to accept his own attraction, and ultimately love, for another man (Mark). Also, the sex illuminating. (I learned what butt plugs are, for goodness sake!). This is a stunning debut for an erotica author, and I can't wait for Sam to publish the rest of this series. Grade: A

Triads Forever (hee hee hee),

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day! My husband got cake, balloons, flowers....and a guided weekend of fly fishing, his favorite activity.

Hope everyone has a wonderful day!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Beard of the Day

I don't usually like blonds, but even I have to admit that Ryan Phillippe has a very sexy, brooding, scruffy thing going on. Oh yeah, and his six-pack looks pretty darned good, too.

Happy Friday, Happy Commencement of Summer Vacation, Happy Romance Reading!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The ARC Conundrum

I'd like to talk about a somewhat sticky issue...ARCs or advanced review copies of books. Since there are 3 parts to my "romance" personality--reader, reviewer and writer--I am going to examine this from 3 different points of view. I am definitely conflicted about this topic since I am approaching it from 3 different places.

As a reader of romance, one of the most exciting parts of this addiction for me is the sanctity of release day. It's the equivalent of Christmas morning for anyone nursing a romance novel obsession. There's nothing like waking up on Christmas morning and ripping open those presents. When reviewers spill the details about an upcoming novel prior to release day, it's like finding all your xmas gifts in your parent's closet and peeking. Takes all the fun out of xmas morning and makes it a big let-down. I still haven't read Lover Mine because so many folks were discussing it prior to release day that my excitement for the book sort of fizzled out and died. (I am already cringing thinking about KMM's Shadowfever book...if the secrets are revealed before release day it will be a bloody, blooming shame...I surely hope she is not planning on sending out ARCs for that book....)

Furthermore, it sometimes feels like a slap in the face to us regular readers/reviewers not privy to an ARC when others are already jabbering about it. I'm sure that's not their intention, but nevertheless, it's not a good feeling.

I get requests all the time to do ARC reviews. Every once in a blue moon, I say yes, but very, very rarely. Why? Because I don't want anyone dictating what and when I read. I am very selfish about this's the only thing in my life that is free and clear of responsibilities, and I like it that way. I am not a professional reviewer; I'm not getting paid for this. If I want to read an old Julie Garwood novel, I do it. If I want to check out a new mystery, I do it. I pay for my own books to support the authors who are gracious enough to write these wonderful stories. Sometimes I feel like writing a review and sometimes I don't. If an author offers me a book to review that is something I planned to read anyway, I'll say yes. Then, I still BUY it later, just as I planned, to support the author in the best way increasing her sales figures.

I published my first book in 2009. Promoting it is a tricky and difficult business. You need some buzz generated prior to release, but not too much. You need lots of reviews and interviews and contests around the release day to help promote your book. Many awesome reviewers and bloggers offered to read ARCs for me and write reviews. These were absolute god-sends for my sales. So, from a writer's point of view, sending out ARCs is a critical part of promotion. I asked almost all of the reviewers to wait until release week and after to post reviews. Big name authors like JR Ward don't need to rely on bloggers for publicity; they have marketing departments at their publishing houses. However, small independent writers and e-book authors have to take care of their own promotion, so sending out ARCs is key. Thank God for non-professional reviewers willing to accept these advanced copies.

So, in conclusion, you can probably tell that I am really conflicted about this whole issue. On one hand, I hate having the magic wrecked by so many folks reading books before I get my hands on a copy, and on the other hand, I am eternally grateful to reviewers willing to read them from an author's perspective. I'm not sure what the answer is to all of this, but I can tell you right now that I'm not reading twitter or goodreads or checking out my blog list prior to Shadowfever coming out. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, is going to ruin my enjoyment of that book. It will be a festive Christmas morning on January 18, 2011 when Penelope cracks open the front cover....

I would love to hear some of your opinions about this issue...bloggers? authors? What do you think?

All my best,

Mr. Brown Bunny Takes A Bride

No, unfortunately, that's not the latest Harlequin title. This is the scene that welcomed me this morning when I woke up. I am currently contemplating wedding gifts for the happy couple. At the top of the list are potato guns, bowls of Gatorade laced with poison, and letting loose the guard dog (since said guard dog is actually an 8 and 1/2 pound miniature wiener dog, it won't be very effective). I know, I know....I'm so mean. But seriously, nothing good can come from this. We all know that no other creature f**ks as much as bunnies, except maybe the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Within a matter of months, ten thousand offspring will be sniffing around my garden. Last night I harvested my first batch of veggies....spicy, delicious arugula and nice, crisp radishes with a terrific kick. No way in hades am I sharing with the newlyweds.

I might need to reinforce the chicken wire fence.

Anyhoo, I am in the midst of reading Sam Wayland's With Grace...another nice spicy treat with a good kick to it! I discovered yesterday that reading erotica on my Kindle at the pool isn't such a hot idea. Too many prying eyes. Next up is Emily Bryan's latest Stroke of Genius, and I think I might try Kaki Warner's Open Country. It looks intriguing.

Hope everyone is having a good week!

Monday, June 14, 2010

God Bless Chicken Wire!

Penelope's Gardening Update.....

My garden is loving these June showers. The clematis has exploded, the hydrangea is starting to bloom, all my herbs (oregano, chives, sage, lemon balm, lemon thyme, etc) are ready to pick. I just planted cinnamon basil, thai basil, and lemon basil, which are already looking great. And all of my nasturtium seeds are up (nasturtiums have spicy, edible flowers...great to toss into salads).

My favorite gardening activity is planting my window boxes. I mix annuals and herbs together--purple and lime green potato vines are awesome fillers, and I also like to add in different kinds of mint (chocolate, orange, pineapple), thyme and scented geraniums.

Finally, I have figured out a way to thwart Mr. Brown Bunny...chicken wire! As I was struggling to assemble this fence (with sharp sticks, rocks and exposed wire edges), Mr. Brown Bunny had the audacity to sit about 10 feet away from me and watch, munching on the grass the whole time! Now he is free to munch away on the lawn while I harvest my arugula, but he ain't getting any more pea plants unless he hires a helicopter.

Penny: 1, Mr. Brown Bunny: 0

There are 3 and 1/2 days left before doomsday...I mean, summer vacation. Which means I have 3 and 1/2 days left to edit Sweet Magik. I gotta run!


Friday, June 11, 2010

Beard of the Day

To commemorate the new A-Team movie, Bradley Cooper is our illustrious model for Beard of the Day. He is too much of a pretty boy for my scruffy tastes, but even I have to admit he rocks his beard. It takes the edge off that pretty boy face. (Also, he's totally ripped...check out the trailer).

I can't wait to see this one! Thrills, spills and Liam Neeson...I'm all over this baby!

Hope all of you have a wonderful weekend. We've got swim lessons, a piano recital, strawberry-picking, and a birthday party. I'm counting the days until summer vacation!


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wednesday Update (Bunnies, Popsicles and Grand Finales)

1) I finished my second book yesterday! Sweet Magik is finally done...76,000 words of hot, hunky Klaus boys, elfin spells and demon slaying. Phew. I am soooooo ready for summer vacation!

2) I read Ava Gray's Skin Tight and was pretty surprised. It was a good, solid suspense story but nothing like the edgy, intense, gripping Skin Game. I thought Foster and Mia would be another wild ride, but it was much more of a traditional novel...almost....mellow??? I was expecting Bonnie and Clyde, but instead I got Ozzie and Harriet. Still liked it, just didn't have that edge to it that I was expecting.

3) Found a puddle of sticky blue stuff on the floor of the pantry. My daughter informed me that she decided she didn't want the blue popsicle, so she just dropped it on the floor and left it there. Ok-ay. (She is 7). I am already squirreling up Prozac pills for the adolescent years. I am so screwed.

4) Mrs. Brown Bunny found my veggie garden. And ate my veggie garden. And decided to make a nest next to my veggie garden. So, I filled in the nest and installed a chicken wire fence with sharp sticks, rocks and other deterrents. I'm not going down without a fight.

5) Re-read Lisa Kleypas' Seduce Me At Sunrise. I am so lovin' the whole gypsy thing, it's not even funny. Here's an excerpt for your reading pleasure....

Win's stomach constricted with an ache of pleasure, and her heartbeat hammered in her throat. But she was still angry with him, and she was done with him, and if he had come here for a midnight talk, he was sadly mistaken. She started to tell him so, but to her astonishment, she felt a thick piece of cloth descend over her mouth, and then he was tying it deftly behind her head. In a few more seconds, he had bound her wrists in front of her.

Win was rigid with shock. Merripen would never do something like this. And yet it was him; she would know him of only by the touch of his hands. What did he want? What was going through his mind? His breath was faster than usual as it brushed against her hair. Now that her vision had adjusted to the darkness, she saw that his face was hard and austere.

Merripen drew the ruby ring off her finger and set it on the bedside table. Taking her head in his hands, he stared into her wide eyes. He said only two words. But they explained everything he was doing, and everything he intended to do.

"You're mine."

He picked her up easily, draping her over one powerful shoulder, and he carried her from the room.

Win closed her eyes, yielding, trembling. She pressed a few sobs against the gag covering her mouth, not of unhappiness or fear, but of wild relief. This was not an impulsive act. This was ritual. This was an ancient Romany courtship rite, and there would be nothing half-hearted about it. She was going to be kidnapped and ravished.


Rock on, Lisa Kleypas!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Happy Release Day, Sam Wayland!

Big, huge congratulations to fellow Quirky Lady Sam Wayland, whose debut novel is out today! Yay, Sam! With Grace is a sexy, emotional menage's hot, it's touching, and that guy on the cover has a nice scruffy beard thing going on.....see it!

Here's the blurb for Sam's wonderful story...please stop by next week for Penelope's review.


Grace loves her boyfriend, Philip, she loves her job, and she might just love her boss, but she can ignore that. She and Philip are building a life together and it’s almost perfect. So what if their sex life is less than spectacular?

Philip loves Grace absolutely. She’s the only woman for him. But the more he gets to know Mark…well, he can ignore that. After all, he’s well practiced at suppressing his real desires.

Mark lives for his restaurant, Valentine’s, but he can’t resist flirting with Grace, his hostess, any chance he gets. And he can’t remember ever being more attracted to a man than Philip. Not that it matters, as they’re committed to each other and he respects that.

A lawyer yearning to shed his inhibitions but afraid to turn up the heat, a brilliant PhD candidate with the secret desire for more spice, and the chef who craves them both. When three passionate people dare to fulfill their appetites, they find the perfect recipe for love.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Penelope Ponders her Plethora of Pet Peeves

Cougar stories.

Cougars, in general.

Over-use of the words c**k and p***y in erotica. Come on people, get a thesaurus!

Over-abundance of ARC reviews. Release day is losing the magic.

Reading PDF files on my Kindle. My eyes! My eyes! Am I blind yet?

Authors who crank out 2000 words/day while I struggle with one freakin' scene. In a week.

When my expectations exceed reality for a new release.

Bunny poop in my front yard.

Bunnies taunting my wiener dog.

Run-away wiener dogs.

Unnecessary repetition in novels. You already told me the heroine is lusting for the hero. Seriously. Like a million times. Kick it down a notch, buddy.

People who take themselves too seriously.

Yellow pine pollen. Gallons and gallons of it everywhere. It's raining yellow baby powder, Mom!

Hijackers on the Amazon boards.

Apologies by high profile cheaters. Just once, I would like to see one of these no-account, skanky man-ho's skip the press conference, the trip to an "undisclosed facility for sex addiction," and media circus and say nothing. Absolutely nothing. Because honestly, there is nothing to say. You're a lyin', cheatin', skanky man-ho. The end.

Hot "trends" in romance. I'm waiting for the gay Amish vampire pirate book. Any day now.

Okay, I can't think of any others at the moment, but I'm thinking I need a big martini right about now! (hee hee...I'm not kidding!). Oh yeah, another pet peeve....restaurants that don't have a good martini menu!

If you have any irritating pet peeves you need to get off your chest, please feel free to leave a comment.